70th anniversary of liberation of AUSCHWITZ
There are still many people who deny the existence of the concentration camps or to whom Auschwitz does not ring a bell. Others believe that Poles established those camps during the Second World War and only Jews were the victims.
Auschwitz concentration camp will celebrate 70th anniversary of liberation on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. It’s a perfect moment to remind its story.
Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz Birkenau is the only camp on the UNESCO list. Founded in 1940 on the territory of Poland, incorporated to the Nazi Germany in October 1939. At first it was dedicated to imprison political opponents and intellectuals, mainly Poles. However German criminals, Soviet POWs, Bohemians, Yugoslavians, Jehovah Witnesses, clericals, homosexuals were also captured there. They got a tattoo on their arm: an ID number instead of their own surname.
First transport of over 700 prisoners arrived to Auschwitz on 14 June 1940. First commandant of the camp was Rudolf Höß. After the conference in Wannsee a decision of a “Final Solution” was made hence from spring 1942 Jews were relocated from the ghettos to the camp. First attempt of killing the inmates with the Cyclone B gas was held in September 1941 but from spring 1942 the action was conducted on a large scale.
The complex KL Auschwitz was divided into 3 sections:
– Auschwitz I: a “commanding center”, mainly a work camp.
– Auschwitz II- Birkenau : an extermination camp equipped with the gas chambers and crematories where over 1 million people were killed.
– Auschwitz III – Monowitz: a forced labor camp.
August 1944 was the moment when the camp was evacuated step by step. The Nazis started to wipe out the tracks of the camp’s existence. The archives were burned, one crematory was dismantled, others prepared to be blown up. Only one day before the liberation of Poland, on 17 January 1945 the last Death March set out to the Reich.
The camp was freed on 27 January 1945. Around 7.5 thousand managed to await this moment however not all of them survived.
Total number of the victims ranges from 1, 1 million to 1, 5 million people. However other data shows that even 5 million inmates were killed there. This statistic is based on the first Intelligence Report on Auschwitz concentration camp made by Witold Pilecki – Polish rittmeister who voluntarily got imprisoned in Auschwitz, organized a resistance movement there, managed to escape from the camp and informed the Western Allies of the Holocaust. After the WWII he was sentenced to death by the Communists upon the accusation of collaborating with the Western enemies.
Among around 8 thousand employees of the Auschwitz camp only 750 were sentenced after the war. Polish Institute of National Remembrance started new investigation 3 years ago and soon is going to publish the whole list including 9, 5 thousand names. Around 50 former camp guards who are still alive can be sentenced in future.